James Curtis Gregory, 1840 - 1907
Adriana (Ada) Low Gregory, 1845 - 1896

by Brian Stevenson
last updated May, 2016

J.C. Gregory was fairly typical of Victorian-era amateur microscopists on both sides of the Atlantic: upper middle class male with disposable income and leisure time to spend on hobbies. His unmarried sister, Ada, was also typical in some ways – the 1880 census recorded that she “helps keep home” with James’ wife Anna, and she appears to have maintained the household after Anna died. But Ada was also a microscope hobbyist: she was a member of at least one society, prepared her own slides and exhibited them, and, evidently, exchanged them with other enthusiasts. Both of the Gregory siblings produced nice slides that are reasonably well prepared and finished (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Microscope slides that were prepared by James C. Gregory (left) or Ada L. Gregory (right). These examples were acquired in a cabinet that was once owned by a member of the New York Microscopical Society.


Figure 2. Microscope slides by English professional slide makers, that were once in the collection of J.C. Gregory. The leftmost slide was made by one of the Norman clan, and the other two were made by Amos Topping, all from London. Several U.S. distributors retailed slides by these and other Europeans.


James Gregory was born on September 8, 1840, and Ada was born on November 23, 1845, both in Wawarsing, New York. Their parents, Albert and Jane, operated a farm, and appear to have been rather well-off: the 1850 census valued the Gregory’s farm at $10,000.

James registered for the military draft in 1863, with occupation recorded as “clerk”. It not clear whether or not he served in the US Civil War (1861-1865).

By the time of the 1880 census, James was married and lived in Nyack-on-Hudson, New York. He was then 39 years old and his wife, Anna, was 24. I did not find indications of there having been any children. There are periodic references to Anna in publications over the next few years. In 1882, she was Secretary of the Nyack First Baptist Church Fair Committee. In 1886, she appeared at a ball for the Nyack Rowing Association, wearing “yellow India silk with panels of brown velvet”. She was absent from the 1891 Annual Dinner of the Rockland County Historical Association, and had probably died by that date.

As noted above, Ada lived with her brother and sister-in-law at the time of the 1880 census. She continued to live with James through the rest of her life.

In the spring of 1877, James bought an interest in a Nyack coal and lumber supplying company. With George Gurnee, he formed the partnership of Gurnee and Gregory. In 1896, Gurnee sold his share to M.B. Sherman, and the company continued as Gregory and Sherman through at least 1906 (Figure 3).

James served as Corresponding Secretary of the Nyack Society of Microscopists in 1892. Ada appears to have also been a member. The May, 1892 Annual Exhibition of the Society “was given at the residence of J.C. Gregory. Eleven microscopes were used in the exhibition. These were arranged on tables scattered through several rooms, occasioning frequent tours from one to another to witness the changes of the subjects”. That evening, “Mr. Gregory exhibited some mineral crystals, shown by reflected light, and Miss Gregory's line was vegetable sections exhibited by polarized light”.

James was elected to membership in the American Microscopical Society in 1893. He evidently joined the New York Microscopical Society at roughly the same time. At the 1895 Annual Exhibition of the New York Microscopical Society, he showed “chalcedony pseudomorph after pectolite”, and at the 1897 Exhibition, he showed “sections of ditroite containing oolite”.

The July 27, 1895 Rockland County Journal reported that “Miss Ada Gregory, who has been quite ill, is slowly improving”. But, she passed away on October 30, 1896, when only 50, and was buried with her family in Wawarsing.

James remarried in September, 1898, to Emily Fall. He was 57 years old, she was 26. The couple had three children over the next six years.

James Gregory died on September 16, 1907, in Lexington, Kentucky. His death report states that he had been in that city for two weeks, but usually lived in Jacksonville, Illinois. He was still in the lumber and coal business.

Figure 3. Advertisement from the 1906 Nyack City Directory.


Figure 4. Mouthparts of a bumblebee, by Ada L. Gregory. Photographed using a 3.4x objective lens in a Leitz Ortholux II microscope with C-mounted digital SLR camera, and crossed polarizing filters (polariscope).


Figure 5. Cast skin of a carpet beetle larva, mounted by James C. Gregory. Photographed using transmitted light with a 3.4x objective lens in a Leitz Ortholux II microscope with C-mounted digital SLR camera.


Figure 6. James Curtis Gregory, in 1898. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from Hudson River Valley Heritage, http://www.hrvh.org/cdm/ref/collection/nyacklib/id/5313.



The American Monthly Microscopical Journal (1892) Nyack Association, Vol. 13, page 199

Death record of James C. Gregory (1907) accessed through ancestry.com

Find-a-Grave: Ada Gregory (accessed May, 2016) http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=76908342&ref=acom

Find-a-Grave: James C. Gregory (accessed May, 2016) http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=GREG&GSpartial=1&GSbyrel=all&GSst=19&GScntry=4&GSsr=1041&GRid=95910805&

Hudson River Valley Heritage (accessed May, 2016) J.C. Gregory, http://www.hrvh.org/cdm/ref/collection/nyacklib/id/5313

Journal of the New York Microscopical Society (1895) Annual Exhibition, Vol. 11, pages 90-92

Journal of the New York Microscopical Society (1897) Annual Exhibition, Vol. 13, page 69

The Microscopical Bulletin (1893) American Microscopical Society, pages 38-39

Michler-Blount-Scrivener Family Tree (accessed May, 2016) James Curtis Gregory, http://person.ancestry.co.uk/tree/68643064/person/38182008737/facts

Nyack City Directory (1906) page 55

Our Record (1882) Report on planning for the Fair of the First Baptist Church, Nyack, page 16

Rockland County Journal (1886) The N.R.A.’s Assembly, February 27, page 4

Rockland County Journal (1891) The Rockland County Historical Society, February 28, page 1

Rockland County Journal (1895) “Miss Ada Gregory, who has been quite ill, is slowly improving”, July 27, page 5

Rockland County Journal (1896) New firm in Nyack, December 5, page 1

U.S. birth, census, military, marriage, death, and probate records, accessed through ancestry.com